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During A High-Rise Fire Conventional Wisdom May Not Apply

An extra-alarm fire broke out in the high-rise at 500 W. 43rd St. Sunday. (Credit: Keith Lowry /NYCFireWire)

An extra-alarm fire broke out in the high-rise at 500 W. 43rd St. Sunday. (Credit: Keith Lowry /NYCFireWire)

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NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Investigators now believe that the cause of Sunday’s high rise fire in Hell’s Kitchen was electrical.

Officials are examining an overloaded power strip and a cheap extension cord. They said that fire and smoke spread because an apartment door did not self-close, CBS 2 reported.

In high-rises doors are required to automatically close to keep fires contained.

The blaze killed Daniel McClung, 27, as he fled the building and seriously injured his husband.

In the aftermath of the deadly fire many people have said that their instinct would be to run.

“I would think it would be safer to get out of the apartment,” one person told CBS 2’s Emily Smith.

Even a fire safety expert agreed that it would be his initial inclination.

“It would be my instinct to leave the building as well,” The National Fire Sprinkler Association’s Dominick Kasmauskas said.

However, Kasmaukas added that it is not recommended, and Associate Professor of Fire Science, Glenn Corbett agreed.

Corbett suggested staying inside, with vents covered, and calling 911.

“It can be very deadly, very quickly,” he said, “That’s why we advise people not to leave their apartment.”

In Sunday’s fire in Hell’s Kitchen, some fled and beat the odds but McClung died from smoke inhalation while trying to escape.

Fire officials said that unless your building has a sprinkler system the stairway will act as a chimney, a vertical funnel for smoke.

Still, the September 11, attacks also showed us tragic examples of folks who were told to stay inside and died. Officials said that was most likely because the design of an office poses more risk.

“Think of office buildings today,” one expert said, “They are wide open and fire can spread easily through those areas.”

Experts suggested finding out if your building has a working sprinkler system that will prevent the fire from spreading making it safer to leave the building.

City building code requires self-closing doors in high rises, but investigators said that the door in Sunday’s fire did not close and caused a deadly smoke buildup.

Without knowing much of this information ahead of time you may be left to rely on your instincts which often prove to be wrong.

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